Elizabeth City might soon pursue two “smart grids” for utility service rather than one, after city officials reported encountering problems with water meters used in a pilot project.
The city chose Nexgrid, of Fredricksburg, Va., to provide meters for a smart grid for electrical and water service, but is now considering spinning off the water grid to another firm, Badger Meter, of Milwaukee, City Manager Rich Olson and Assistant City Manager Angela Cole told City Council during its recent retreat.
The city has pursued a smart grid for years. The project would set up new communications infrastructure and utility meters that could be read wirelessly. Implemented properly, the system would benefit the city and customers alike, as it would provide more data, and in real time, to monitor usage and find outages.
The city had planned to go with Nexgrid for the entire smart grid, and got the company to install a pilot project in the city’s downtown in spring 2015. That pilot project continues today; the city won’t take the smart grid citywide until after it upgrades to a new utility billing software, Olson and Cole have said.
Olson and Cole said Nexgrid’s electrical meters work very well and have provided “invaluable” data to the city’s electrical department. The company’s water meters, however, aren’t designed as well and weren’t always properly installed, Cole said.
According to Cole, Public Utilities Director Amanda Boone is looking at using smart water meters provided by Badger Meter, the city’s current water meter provider. Badger’s meters would also go through a pilot project, which would be run alongside the Nexgrid pilot, she said.
Badger would also transmit meter readings through the local cellular network, rather than a separate, utility-owned network, Cole explained.
Cellular transmission would cost the city around $100,000 a year, Olson said.
In a followup interview, Boone said she’s still studying the Badger option and couldn’t estimate installation costs yet.
Cole has previously said the city would look at implementing the smart grid next year, allowing time to get fully used to the new software.
Tyler Technologies, of Plano, Texas, is providing that software. Updating councilors on that project, Cole said Friday that the city remains on track to start using the software for customers on June 10.
The city encountered issues late last year in getting some data to convert from its existing software, Logics Classic, to Tyler’s Incode software, but it got Logics to fix the problem, Cole reported.
One of Tyler’s big next steps, she continued, is a “data pull” of all city customers that will check that accounts correctly transfer to the new system.
Due to differences in how the programs round, balances should be off by no more than a few cents, Olson said.